In Italy, these fluffy, lemon-scented shortbread cookies are a classic with coffee. I like to make them in advance so I always have some in a jar on the kitchen shelf in the cold season – for surprise visitors and for my family and I!
The Italians and their traditions
We Italians love traditions. There are great common customs and those that can vary from village to village. Some of the oldest traditions are based on the liturgical calendar. And especially during Advent, there are a great number of them. Actually, shortbread cookies with jam hearts are also part of the pre-Christmas season – just like the famous zampognari from Campania that symbolise the shepherds from the Christmas story and who make the pilgrimage to the manger every year.
The shepherds with the bagpipe
Von den Abruzzen bis nach Süditalien zogen die zampognari früher zu großen Festen und vor allem im Advent durch die Dörfer. Ihren Namen haben sie von der zampogna, einer Sackpfeife, dieFrom Abruzzo to southern Italy, the zampognari used to parade through the villages at great festivals and especially during Advent. They got their name from the zampogna, a bagpipe, which they knew how to play skilfully. In this way, the shepherds provided the background for the festivities or for contemplation – depending on the occasion – and received money and food in return. However, it was the children, who waited for the shepherds and went with them through the village, who got the fine cookies. To this day, the zampognari are a central part of the Neapolitan Christmas tradition.
Shortbread cookies with jam heart
- 25 g butter
- 125 g sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 lemon zest, untreated
- 250 g plain flour
- 3 g baking powder
- 2 egg yolks
- 50 ml milk
- Pre-heat the oven to 180° C. Beat the butter (at room temperature), sugar, vanilla extract, lemon zest and salt vigorously with a mixer. This will make the dough much airier than a conventional shortcrust pastry. Mix the flour with baking powder and add to the sugar-butter mixture. Knead or mix until a homogeneous mass is formed. Now add the yolks to the milk and slowly mix into the dough.
- Fill the mixture into a piping bag with a serrated nozzle and pipe small mounds onto a baking tray with baking paper. Place a small dollop of jam in the centre of each cookie. It is best to form a hollow with a mocha spoon or small teaspoon and fill this with the jam. Apricot, red currant or raspberry are perfect. Bake the cookies at approx. 180° C for 15 minutes.